Friday, December 11, 2009

India Getting Stricter Regarding False IMEI Numbers And Norms

Having knowledge about the IMEI number has many advantages for law enforcement and telecom service providers. The IMEI number is used by the GSM network to identify valid devices and therefore can be used to stop a stolen phone from accessing the network. If a mobile phone is stolen, the owner can call his or her network provider and instruct them to "ban" the phone using its IMEI number. This renders the phone useless, whether or not the phone's SIM is changed.

The Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) recently arrested five people from a cell phone repair shop for implanting fake International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers in cell phones. These phones, widely used by terrorists, had gone dead after a recent government ban. As per the government directives, handsets with false IMEI number were blocked from midnight of November 30 over concerns that criminal or militant groups could use them to organise attacks.

The 15-digit IMEI number can be used to identify a handset on an operator’s network, allowing individual calls to be traced to the phone it came from. If a person uses mobile phone for anti-national activities, the IMEI number can be used to track the set and catch the culprit. But if a lot of cell phones have the same IMEI number, it becomes difficult for investigating agencies to trace individual mobile phones. It was on the basis of the IMEI number that the police established that LeT operative David Coleman Headley had stayed in Lemon Tree Hotel in Mithakali, before 26/11 attacks.

According to Praveen Dalal, the leading Techno-Legal Expert of India and Managing Partner of Perry4Law we need to have additional information besides IMEI. The IMEI is only used to identify the device, and has no permanent or semi-permanent relation to the subscriber, says Dalal. However, many network and security features are enabled by knowing the current device being used by a subscriber, suggests Dalal.

Although a good start has been made by the Indian government yet it has to cover a long road ahead. The government must also train law enforcement officers in techno-legal fields so that they may effectively deal with the technology related crimes in India.